Robbed in Barcelona? What I did + tips to beat the pickpockets



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I thought I’d share with you my experience of being robbed in Barcelona from early last year. I wouldn’t wish this to happen to anyone visiting this great city. Below you’ll find some tips of how to avoid the pickpockets and ideas of what to do if you have the misfortune of being robbed.

Remember: In all situations, keep calm and don’t lose your head……. Unless of course you are Liam Neeson


Disclaimer:  I like to state loud and clear that despite my experience of being pickpocketed – I love Barcelona.

Let me state this loud and clear.


Barcelona- Despite the blasted pickpockets, I love this city


I love the city. It has a raw energy.

The people are passionate and interesting.


The food- tapas bars here are amazing.

Nightlife- wow. The night never ends in Barcelona.
Plus this city is bursting with creativity and vibrant, innovative ideas.

Inspired by Gaudi, the citizens have a zest for challenging boundaries and living life to the fullest.



So it was a massive letdown when last year, on my 5th visit to the city I fell prey to a growing menace in Barcelona –pickpockets.

It had been a long day of travelling.

A last minute meetup with a friend had fallen through because of a miscommunication in dates.

I was kinda upset because I was looking forward to catching up with her.

Suddenly, my first evening in Barcelona seemed empty and vague.
I grabbed the airport express train from El Prat to Placa Catalunya.

After emerging from the escalator I walked towards La Ramblas in search of my hostel for the night.

It’s only when I got into my hostel room that I noticed that my wallet had vanished.



Pickpockets: Don’t put the wallet in your backpocket and keep your handbag/manbag to the front of you. Image courtesy of:




First- a feeling of disbelief and denial.

I checked my pockets 20,000 times, emptied my rucksack and suitcase a million times.


Suddenly, a nauseating feeling swept over me as I realised I had my wallet stolen.

Looking back, I was distracted while emerging from Placa Cataluyna Metro station.

I was busy trying to pull my suitcase in one hand and my rucksack on my back.

Plus I looked way too dapper for 530pm- suit and all.

I stuck out like a sore thumb from the crowd.


Someone there must have seen me as an easy target and true enough, I was the easiest person he/she must have pickpocketed.

This was because I had my wallet in the backpocket

Yep. I had kept my wallet in my backpocket.


Convention and wisdom dictates to keep passport and wallet in your front pocket.

So that was my folly and in part my contribution to my downfall.


I had fist full of euro coins on me.

All my bank cards were in my wallet.

Plus about 150 euros in cash.


Top tip: Keep your valueables separately and not in one place.



In hindsight, I should have kept some of the cards and money seperate.

Also having some sort of backpacker travel insurance in place would have been ….sensible.



You think as a travel blogger I would have known better…


With my fistfull of euros, I wanted to hold onto the money for any essentials in the morning.

I send out a few tweets and messages on Facebook about my misfortune.

Everyone was v.supportive.

In moments like this, I think wow, how great is to have a thing like social networking.

Especially when you travel solo.

First thing I did was to call up my banks and cancel all my cards- painful exercise that took an hour and cost me a lot of money via the phone to do.

After this, I was even more frustrated and trying best to calm myself down.



Liam Neeson borrows Lord Sugar’s favourite catchphrase when encountering a pickpocket ‘You’re fired!’ Image courtesy of Ozzy:


I wish I was Liam Neeson, seeking out these buggers from their lowlife hangouts and blasting them to bits.

However as delusional I maybe sometimes, I really had to pull myself together and not be ‘taken’ in by this idea of being Liam Neeson.


The BudgetTraveller would have to do the job.


A friend on Facebook suggested I pay a visit to the local police station.

Maybe they could help track them down?

Police station is situated towards the bottom of La Ramblas in Carrer Nou de la Rambla.

My visit to the police station was a sobering experience, showing the alarming extent of the problem of pickpocketing in Barcelona.

In the 25 minutes I waited in the queue, 5 weary travellers came in reporting the same issue of being pickpocketed and in some case, being manhandled and having their purses/camera snatched off them.


Beware of imposter policeman in Barcelona. Accept no substitutes. Young or old. Image courtesy of cswtwo:


The worst story of the lot was that of a Japanese girl who had been approached by a policeman in ‘uniform’

Apparently, he asked her for a form of ID which was her passport which she produced.

He then took the passport from her and then casually got into his car and drove off.


( PS  Good to note here that in this situation, shouting and kicking up a racket would be a good idea )


The fact that she speak little or no English did little to help her case.


In fact if you speak little or no Spanish/Catalan, after 5pm it becomes difficult.

The translator at the police station works only between 930am and 5pm.

Worth remembering that for next time!


With the help of some pigeon Spanglish I managed to get a police report filed -what is called a ‘denuncia.’

Go to bed with a heavy heart and empty stomach rumbling like mad.


Woke up in the morning. It was a beautiful day and lifted my spirits.

A nice breakfast at the hostel was a nice pickmeup.


My first visit was to see if I could withdraw money from my wonderful bank- Santander.

My trip was a letdown- apparently the Spanish and UK divisions are run as two separate businesses.

So much for globalisation eh?


My last resort was to use a Western Union Point.

They have a branch at the bottom of the Las Ramblas.

I got my friend back in Edinburgh to send me through 200 euros.


For a fee of around 7 euros, Western Union send you the money in minutes.

It is a convenient, quick and easy way to transfer money abroad and receive funds in dire situations like mine.

You need to have a valid form of ID to recieve the money.


Walking back up the Las Ramblas was a strange experience.

I was walking fast and not making eye contact with anyone.

Everywhere I looked, I could see pickpockets.

I was ready to kick the shit out of anyone who dared brush against me-that’s how insane I was feeling.


It’s a terrible shame when someone’s trust has been abused.


In my case, thanks to handywork of a few notorious individuals, suddenly my trust and love for Barcelona was being severely tested.

Luckily, the rest of my trip went incident free.

Scars are still there but for the experience, am infinitely more wiser.


Experience really is the best teacher.



How to avoid being robbed in Barcelona

Barcelona. Spot the guy being robbed? Image courtesy of Voteprime:


So with that thought in mind here my top tips for you of what to do if you are robbed in Barcelona and some general tips to keep in mind to avoid this misfortune on your travels.


1) Keep calm and carry on


It’s a humiliating and painful experience. It is natural to feel very angry and almost the need to start chasing the pickpocket down the street.

Remember, some of these people work in organised gangs so you could lead yourself into more potential danger by confronting them.


Unless of course you are Liam Neeson.
2) Bank cards/ Skype


Call your banks immediately and cancel your cards. Make sure you get a name of who you are speaking to for future reference. Handy tip for reducing the call charges- if you have wifi access in your hotel/hostel or drag yourself to the nearest coffee/McDonalds! you can call them via Skype. Rates are v.competitive and worth loading 10 euros of credit before your trip.
3) Visit the Police


Address for the police is

Comisaria de Policia de Barcelona (Ciutat Vella)
Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 76-80
Barcelona, Spain

Metro: Liceu (Green Line, L3)

Get a ‘denuncia’ police report which will be necessary when claiming back for your insurance.
Also if your passport is stolen, you may need to produce this to the airline and also when trying to get a ‘temporary passport.’



4) Getting a temporary passport



If you’ve had the misfortune of losing your passport, then definitely you will need to have a police report handy.

Many embassies will issue this free of cost or in some case charge you a fee.

I always carry with me a photocopy of my passport and also a few passport photographs-this will help immensely in situations like this.


5) Other general tips


  • Get some form of travel insurance.
  • Keep your valueables separate.
  • Spread your cash in two separate places.
  • Store some of your cash in a prepaid cashcard
  • Be vigilant and don’t flash your gadgets around too much plus don’t leave them lying around.
  • Plus try and keep the guidebook out of a sight- it’s a red rag to pickpockets for them picking their targets.


  • Jemma says:

    Aw Kash I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you 🙁 It is such a violation of personal space, I can’t imagine how scary that must have been. It’s a good job you already had your room at the hostel booked and paid for!
    I’m glad that you’ve taken the negative of being robbed and turned it into a positive helpful blog post for other people.

    • moha says:

      Actually .. unfortunately its happened to me either put on my situation .. there were a three guys the first one playing role of distraction .. and the second is the guy who pick the pocket .. and the third guy OMG the third guy he playing the role of the innocent guy who bring the pocket after baeen stolen. That keep the other two guys vanished . And the innocent guy he try to leading you to the guy who rubbed you .. but in matter fact he try to lead you to another trap or to keep you busy. And that was my situation .

  • adrian says:

    see this to see how innocent looking young girls operate as pickpockets in barcelona metro trains. beware of them. see this site and share with your friends and loved ones in barcelona:

  • Adrian Cox says:

    Dear all,

    Sorry to hear about this. I was British pro-Consul in Barcelona for 3 years and have now left (due to the cuts). I have set up a company to assist All English Speakers who suffer these and all classes of problems while in Barcelona or in Spain. At least we can say that we can help you through the stress and worry at these difficult moments. Hope this will help your visitors. Kindest Regards,

    Adrian Cox:
    [email protected]

  • Pau Gasol says:

    When you wrote “great city” in your opening lines, I thought you were kidding. After reading how serious you are about your love for Barcelona, I have come to the conclusion that you are delusional. How could you love a city that is so cruel to the outside world? That leaves so so many tourists in bad shape? Well, obviously you have your allegiance unchanging no matter what I write. I say, good luck to you, buddy. I hope you the best of luck as you are always on alert of the maliciousness aside you at all times as you walk the streets & your constant nagging awareness of feeling your wallet in the Metro.

    • Hey.

      I totally agree with you that this problem of pickpocketing is letting down big time the city’s residents and tourists alike.

      I do have a soft spot so I still am fond of the place, revisiting Barcelona in June so let’s see how I get on this time.

  • Roz says:

    Also, its worth noting you cannot fly back to UK with just a police report..You must have a passport..I know this from experience in may this year..

    • Hi Roz

      I didn’t get my passport stolen luckily.
      I am guessing the UK embassy issue temporary passport to those who have had their passports stolen, no?
      On that point, always great to have a photocopy of your passport with you.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and please do drop by soon at the BudgetTraveller

  • Fran says:

    two years ago my sister arrived in Barcelona, she was only in the city for 3 years and her wallet was stolen..I told my sister to keep her purse in front of her and put her hands on it, she did not listen..I love Barcelona but its a huge problem with pick pockets..Just to keep things on the up and up when I see them coming in the distance and yes I can smell them a mile off, I will begin to call them out by pointing my fingers in their direction and brushing them off..I have never had an incident with them.

  • jill says:

    This is so helpful, and I am sorry to hear of your experience. We are heading to Barcelona in a few days and have been warned of all the scams but this really helps especially the steps to take if you are a victim.

    Thanks, Jill

  • Rob says:

    Barcelona is stunning and its natives wonderful. i loved every minute until i got stuffed for 70 euros by a fucker in a baguette fast food outlet. 4 tiny pizza slices, 2 beers and 2 cokes. i summoned police who backed up the pizza guy 100%. i wont be back until they sort these people out. cop said i should have asked the price of the food prior to purchase.

  • Bill says:

    On New year’s Eve I was in a crowded bar in Barcelona, wearing a kilt. Shortly after a woman came up to me and flirted, I felt a ruffle down below, and saw that her accomplice was trying to pick my sporran. I grabbed his wrist and told him to go forth and multiply and not to ******* try it EVER again. They both sloped off, but the proprietor did not want to hear about it. Nasty, nasty.

  • JoeE says:

    Have been sitting on a park bench side by side with my wife hands on our backpack / bag when a bicycle driver in front of us lost his keys. My wife immediately shouted “hello”, pointed towards the “lost” keys and moved towards the keys and then into the direction of the bicycle driver who had stopped 5 meters to the left to hand them over to him like other friendly human beeings would have done. After a moment I got aware of a second man moving towards his bicycle to the right with my wifes bag. Jumping up and running was one action from me and only seconds before he was on his bicycle I got him. He handed over immediately the bag. Securing my belongings back on the park bench and communicating with my wife was more important than thinking anything else. Took me a while to calm down but at least several hours at the police station, embassy etc. could be avoided. Looking forward towards the flight back at the moment. Will try to take some additional good memories into my brain in the next 32 hours left in Barcelona, the “world capital of pickpockets”.

  • JoeE says:

    BTW I am tired of hearing “do not look like a tourist, do not behave like a tourist”. Why visiting Barcelona? Only tourists could be thinking that this could help and potentially give pickpocketers the chance to hide. Of course be prepared to becomme robbed in Barcelona, it is for them like fishing in the croud I assume. Taking the best chance while living in this lovely city as a non tourist avoiding other non tourists only because locals would then eventually take serious measures.

    • I feel your pain Joe.
      Suddenly being or acting like a tourist has become something of a crime.
      Nowadays the catchword in tourism is ‘Live life as a local’ which is fine but at the same time, if you’re visiting a city for a few days not that easy.
      Trust me, locals have it as bad as the tourists- I know many locals in Barcelona who have had their stuff stolen on average once so it’s a bit of an epidemic.
      The sad thing, it’s blighting the image of the city and no one locally is taking any steps to proactively combat the threat of pickpockets.
      Glad to hear you guys were spared of the visit to the police station.
      Thanks for your thoughts and feedback. Do drop by again soon.

      Best wishes
      Kash aka the ‘BudgetTraveller’

  • Angie says:

    Phone stolen on the metro coming into Liceu. Reported to the police where you say, helpful to a point but I had to have the phone serial no of the phone which had just been stolen!!! Luckily my phone service provider could give me the info and stop the phone working for the thieves to enjoy. Real pain, but it didnt stop us enjoying the holiday. Later in the evening at Ramblas there was some really dodgy behaviour, so glad to get in the taxi back to the hotel. Wild West town!

  • Karess says:

    Hi, Kash! I’m so sorry about what happened to you. But yes, thank you for sharing these tips! I’ll definitely use them when I go to Barcelona someday.

    It’s encouraging how you chose not to focus on your demise and instead helped others with your journey.

    I look forward to read more of your adventure stories soon!

  • Mark Lewis says:

    I fell prey to this pickpocketing plan, beware: I was exiting the subway, going up the escalator, and when it reached the top the guy in front of me seemingly dropped his cell phone. When he bent ver to pick it up it created a logam and everyone was bunching up against each other. A brief moment of mayhem ensued. It was at that point that I am guessing that a partner of his did a reach-around from behind and snagged my wallet from my front pocket. The whole incident lasted no more than 30 seconds.

    I now sew a small credit card sized pocket made of tee shirt material into the inside of my pants waistband and keep minimal cash only in my front pocket. (sort of like the pocket inside bathing suit)

    Good luck!

  • Won't get me down says:

    Great points. Just got jacked in Barcelona yesterday carrying my wife’s luggage onto the subway at the Diagonal station. I knew immediately what was going on (one guy grabbed the bag to “help” me while the others pushed me forward). I immediately grabbed for my wallet but it was gone. I jumped off the train and chased them yelling as loud as I can (definitely do this!! They do not want attention drawn to them.) They pitched the wallet (they don’t want to get caught with it!) so I was really lucky and got back all of my cards, but they nabbed the $300 Euros I had just taken out of the ATM. I never carry much cash, but had just stopped and got a large amount since I had to pay for our apartment and the deposit in cash. Sucks. They no doubt saw me make a withdrawl.

    So some lessons. If you make a withdrawl from an ATM you may very well be watched. Put the money somewhere safe, but immediately duck into a building where you can quickly switch it to another pocket or place. The key is to prevent them from getting the wallet – once they have the money there is nothing you can do. I ran them down, but it was one against five, and the one still had on a backpack. The funny thing is that I actually tried to get in a fight to try to get my money back but they were having any of it (again, didn’t want the attention). One was a big body builder guy and I really wanted a piece of him (I’m a tall skinny guy with a big attitude, and I’m 50, so I would have got my ass beaten, but I was pissed) but he wouldn’t take the bait. No cops to be found either, although we did see them at other places and they did chase 3 guys through one other station.

  • Gordon says:

    In Barcelona it is not a crime to pickpocket! The Police have to prove that the value of the stolen goods or money exceeds 600 Euros to be able to prosecute the picpocketer, if they even get arrested. They say they are going to change the law but there has not been anything so far.

  • Scottj1981 says:

    I too was approached by Arabic men…. Bola amigo, I went straight to protect my pocket and they snatched it out of my hand and run off. Apparently there are over 50 reported cases each day. By the time I went to a pay phone to cancel my phone there were £3000 worth of call charges. The law is not strong enough. Avoid Barcelona and go elsewhere. I am well travelled and the experience is enough to put me off ever going again.

  • Scottj1981 says:

    Worst place I have ever been in my life

  • Andrew Clarke says:

    I am sat in my Barcelona hotel room, awake at 5am and angry. Reading websites and looking for advice. Last night I was mugged and had my watch taken. Could have been worse, I suppose.

    I have been here many times and had grown to love it. No more. I saw a bag snatch within minutes of arriving on my first visit. The target was my wife – we saw the scumbag scope her and then approach 2 minutes later – and as I stepped towards him to head him off he dropped a lighter, distracting another woman, and grabbed her bag. Gone in seconds. So I have always been cautious.

    Last night, in a busy public place just next to Playa Catalunya, two men came up to me, one either side, and I instantly told them to go away. I walked off, they followed, I stepped away, told them loudly to go away and signalled angrily. One tried to hand me something and I stepped away and shouted to people nearby get attention. Then the other simply grabbed my left wrist, turned his back on me and pulled my arm over his left shoulder, incapacitating me, and gripped my arm tightly so I couldn’t get away. I thought he was trying to pull me into an alley nearby. I was scared, you can imagine. I’m tall, fit, strong, but there were two of them. I was about to swing a punch and the other guy stepped towards me, so I had to swipe at him instead – and missed of course. I’m no fighter, I don’t know self defence, I just struggled and tried to keep the second guy away from me.

    There were people around – a few watched. The other approached again – and I was certain he was going for my wallet (in an inside pocket) – and I shouted HELP as loudly as I could, towards a group of young people nearby, kicking out to keep the other guy away. Finally they people – tourists it turned out – ran towards me, and the guy let go of my wrist and they both ran. I thought they had been scared off and I had been lucky. The tourists asked if I was ok. Shaken, not hurt, but of course my wrist felt odd after being gripped for so long – maybe 30 seconds. I double checked my pockets, thanked them and walked on to look for Police. Gotta be some in the central square on a busy Friday night, right? No.

    Then I got the feeling back in my wrist and realised my watch was gone. Physically wripped off my wrist by a guy who should be found and prosecuted (by Liam Neeson, yes). And yes, it was worth a lot more then EUR600, so maybe the police will do something when I go in to report it in a few hours. Bu tI hold out little hope.

    Barcelona, European city of culture, home of Gaudi and the best food on the continent, the city that never sleeps – because if you are asleep you can’t rob someone.

    No, you can keep it. Never again.

  • joe banks says:

    Grate story to learn from, Thanks and sorry of what happens to you, you will be ok and find next time go go there. will i go to visit the city may.
    Good luch

  • With so many horror stories about pickpockets I don’t understand why the authorities turn a blind eye on the practice of these thieves. Why isn’t there more surveillance on trains and platforms by the metro security. The authorities know the profile of these thieves and should be active in identifying them and put them in jail or deport them. I was robbed twice and will never go back to Barcelona. There is no point in a holiday if you are always wary and watchful of being robbed. Also, every hotel front desk should have a warning sign and a list of guide lines to help people navigate this terrible menace. I am upset the authorities are so casual about this crisis. I will forever remember Barcelona as the city of thieves.

    • Hi Lilani

      It is a shame. I went back last year and things seem to have improved: more noticeable police presence in the metro and public places. However as you mentioned…more could be done to combat the menace.

  • Priyanka A says:

    Hi, I’m writing this from a hotel room in Tirupati, a major pilgrimage hub in India. I’m in shock and harrowed, because I was robbed of all my cash at the shrine a few hours ago by a pickpocket, though I got my other docs safe and sound! To top that, my mobile phone was in my cab (no gadgets are allowed inside the shrine), so it took me a lot of time to get it and inform my contacts. A reprimanding but really helpful cop and my hotel key saved the day.

    I’m actually a travel journalist currently on assignment. Unlike you, who yet loves Barcelona, I cannot bring myself even like Tirupati anymore (I’m actually from Mumbai), after this incident. And the scars will burn me every time I hear the name of this city and the deity. One thing is for sure, pickpockets can be anywhere and can target anyone, so no need to best yourself up for it. The first thing you need to do is forgive your own self, which is actually the most difficult part.

    • Hey Priyanka

      I guess the lesson is that you can never let your guard down, wherever you travel in the world. You are spot on: it took me awhile to forgive myself and move on from that incident. One thing since then I’ve also learnt: have travel insurance. Great that they don’t allow gadgets in the shrine 🙂

      • Azzy says:

        Hi. I read your informative and interesting article. I hope that as it was some years back, the situation has improved for tourists. I’m planning to goto BCN in 2 weeks time. Will be my first time there. I’ve been to Madrid and Malaga. No issues there. I would like to know these criminals (pick pocketers) are they native Spanish people or are they (what I think) immigrants and/or gypsies? As we all know in Summer of 2015 the migrant situation is very bad in Europe especialy France.

  • Laura Deans says:

    Thank you for posting your experience, I was pick pocketed recently in Montreal, Canada. I actually got a fraud alert from my cc company so knew where they went. Made a police report the next morning and went to the two shops he went to. Loads of cameras everywhere and witnesses in one shop who described the man and didn’t give him two pairs of $2000 shoes as he didn’t produce ID. (Cc transaction was “pending”) The shoes were still there on hold the next morning when I went to the shops, he said he would go and get his wife and be right back. I asked the police to get the camera footage from one store, but they said it was out of their hands as its up to the cc companies to prosecute. They were basically handed a criminal on a silver platter and yet there is nothing that can be done. Credit cards are one thing, but when it’s your IDs, licenses, cards, etc and your stuck in a foreign country, it’s horrible. Long story short I was left in Montreal with nothing but a passport. He took everything. I think the hardest thing for me is how many people believe it’s “your fault”. It’s not your fault, your a victim of a crime. Don’t beat yourself up, I have lost countless nights of sleep because of stupid people saying it’s my fault, and it’s the last thing you want to hear if it happens to you. I’m happy to find your post to make myself feel a little better I’m not the only victim. More should be done to catch these guys.

  • Santosh says:

    To HELL with BARCELONA .. It was a real HELL because my cash and passport were stolen and no one was there to help me. What an harrowing experience. I just want to go home. I am an ATHEIST and I started praying after my SPAIN trip. Never ever gonna visit this shit again.

  • Jim Turner says:

    We have a trip planned to Barcelona next month as part of our visits to Tuscany and Spain. We have traveled in Europe and Asia for years with no problems. Lived in Asia for a few years. As seasoned travelers we are offended by the potential petty crime in Barcelona and may cancel that part of our trip. If enough people stoped going there the situation would approve quickly. Why should I spend my money is a place that harbors criminals. Sorry, this is not acceptable no matter how great the city of Barcelona may be. Still deciding if it’s worth the potential problems.

  • Charlotte says:

    Up to the point where I was robbed in Barcelona, I was really enjoying the city. I am well travelled and street wise, but the endless queue of victims at the Nou de la Rambla police station, the countless stories online and the attitude of people on the street (watch how people frantically clutch their bags in front of them) have changed my mind. Barcelona is NOT safe to visit. There is a total air of complacency about the problem. It is not careless or stupid people who get robbed. Everyone gets robbed. It’s just a matter of time. I asked some local people and they had also been robbed. I paid a lot for my holiday and was prepared to put up with the usual kinds of stresses and small disappointments, but this is not on. Until the problem is resolved, STAY AWAY.

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